Fairfield University Art Museum fall exhibitions focus on racial and social justice

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Fairfield University Art Museum fall exhibitions focus on racial and social justice
Carrie Mae Weems, Color Real and Imagined, 2014, from Blue Notes series, archival pigment print with silkscreened color blocks. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

FAIRFIELD, CONN.- Fairfield University Art Museum announces three Fall 2021 exhibitions Carrie Mae Weems: The Usual Suspects, Roberto Lugo: New Ceramics, and Robert Gerhardt: Mic Check. These three exhibitions on view from September 18 to December 18, focus on issues of racial justice, racism, police reform, and Black history in the United States. Carrie Mae Weems: The Usual Suspects is being presented in the museum’s Walsh Gallery, while two concurrent exhibitions Roberto Lugo: New Ceramics and Robert Gerhardt: Mic Check are being presented in the Museum’s Bellarmine Hall Galleries.

The Usual Suspects includes recent photographic and video works questioning stereotypes that associate Black bodies with criminality. The exhibition is comprised of three associated works, two of which, All the Boys and The Usual Suspects, examine the racial stereotypes at the heart of deaths of Black men and women at the hands of police, and confront the viewer with the fact of judicial inaction. The third piece in the exhibition is People of a Darker Hue, a meditative compilation of video, found footage, narration, and performance commemorating these deaths.

Considered one of the most influential contemporary American artists, Carrie Mae Weems has investigated family relationships, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, and the consequences of power. During this time, Carrie Mae Weems has developed a complex body of art employing photographs, text, fabric, audio, digital images, installation, and video. Carrie Mae Weems: The Usual Suspects was organized by LSU Museum of Art. The project, which includes a fully illustrated catalogue, is a collaboration between the LSU College of Art + Design, the LSU School of Art and LSU Museum of Art.

On view in the Bellarmine Hall Galleries, is Roberto Lugo: New Ceramics. Self-described “ghetto potter” Roberto Lugo uses porcelain, a medium traditionally reserved for the wealthy, to explore inequality and racial and social justice. His work often takes familiar shapes drawn from European and Asian ceramic traditions, including ginger jars, amphorae, and teapots, but their hand-painted surfaces take inspiration from street art and feature contemporary iconography, including celebrations of Black and Latino figures. A number of the pieces in this exhibition, which features all-new work, also incorporate gun parts from decommissioned handguns obtained in a Hartford, Connecticut gun buyback in 2018 sponsored by #UNLOAD Foundation.

Lugo is Assistant Professor of Ceramics at Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University. He was the recipient of the 2019 Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, and received a Fellowship from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage in 2019.

Also on view in the Bellarmine Hall Galleries is Robert Gerhardt: Mic Check, a photography project by photojournalist and writer Robert Gerhardt, who relied on the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag to track and document these protests in New York City over the last seven years. This remarkable body of work includes photographs of protests from 2014 through 2021, across New York, in massive crowds, in rain and sun, during night and day, in motion during marches and stationary during speeches, and in the past year in the midst of a global pandemic. These candid works capture the passion, righteous anger, and frustration of the protestors. The title comes from the shouts of “mic check!” which mobilized protestors into a game of repeat-after-me, a technique that united the crowd and enabled the spread of the speaker’s comments and instructions without amplification.

Museum visitors are also be able to view VOTE! Black Lives Matter (Connecticut 2020 & 1849), a short film produced by the Mary and Eliza Freeman Center for History and Community, created with filmmaker Pedro Bermudez. Using Chefren Gray’s photography from a Freeman Center PopUp Exhibit, Freeman Center Arts Ambassador Shanna Melton narrates this moving call to action. The photos are from a 2014 Washington, D.C. demonstration attended by a Bridgeport resident, and a 2016 demonstration in Bridgeport.

Museum director Carey Weber says “this timely exhibition series reflects the Museum’s commitment to uplifting the voices of Black artists and to creating an engaging and safe space to consider the issues surrounding systemic racism in our communities. These are difficult things to talk about, but we look forward to inviting all of our different audiences to join us in moving the conversations forward into action.”

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